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Old 05-20-2015, 11:33 PM   #1
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Shakedown cruise

So, I've closed on this new to me Mainship 34 sedan trawler. In 3 weeks, I'll start down the Illinois River from Chicago headed for Tennessee River Mile 547. I'll solo the Illinois, my son will crew for the Mississippi and Ohio leg, and I'll solo the Tennessee. Barring too much excitement, it should take me 3-4 weeks. I'm comfortable with the solo aspect. This boat is smaller than the houseboat that I've been single handing through the Tn River locks for a few years, with much better nav electronics. And if it is blowing like stink, I just check the anchor a little more frequently.

The boat had been stripped clean except for required safety equipment; not even a coffee cup left behind. I'm stocking minimum spares: raw water impellers, fuel filters, various fuses, head repair kit, lines, fenders. There's no ship's log so I have no idea what breaks. If I need any special tools then I'm screwed. I've watched uTube videos of fuel filter changes. I've always owned gas boats and performed my own even major maintenance. This is the first diesel that I've had. The boat was moved 400 miles on it's own bottom to the brokerage location last fall, so equipment shouldn't be too bad. Survey went well.

I've bought and read the waterway guides to research the route. I'm a little anxious about the ~275 miles of Mississippi and Ohio Rivers without repair facilities and I'm trying to minimize the amount of "adventure" associated with the trip. Lock closures and barge traffic I understand, but if you folks who've experienced this route have any little pearls of wisdom that you could share, I'd be appreciative. thankslaot
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Old 05-21-2015, 01:15 AM   #2
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Good luck John. How about keeping us informed via your daily postings so we know how the trip is going. Everyone likes to see the trips others take.
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Old 05-21-2015, 09:10 AM   #3
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Long john, there are several members here that are on the tn. River system. When you reach the tn. And need any assistance give me a shout, jimbob
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Old 05-21-2015, 09:45 AM   #4
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LongJohn, I'm at Green Turtle Bay, KY for the summer so give us a shout as you come through. We also will have a car so if you get in a bind and need help reach out. We all know that a long day on a boat is about an hours drive by car! We should be able to meet anywhere along your route in a few hours.

We bought our boat on Watts Bar 2 years ago and took her home to Cincinnati with no problems down the Tenn. river. We are now at GTB looking forward to exploring this area before heading south in the fall.
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Old 05-22-2015, 06:14 PM   #5
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I use Garmin BlueChart Mobil on my iPad to plan trips and use the Active Captain overlay to identify anchorages. I'am on the Mississippi about 62 miles above the confluence and made a trip up the Illinois River last year and anchored every night with no problems. I would guess being a river boater you have a Quimby's cruising guide I also have used that on every trip I've made. Good luck and enjoy the cruise
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Old 06-10-2015, 11:11 AM   #6
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Hi LongJohn,

It looks like you're doing the right planning and have the experience to have a safe trip. Since you mentioned that this is your first diesel, I will address the one item that can ruin your day fast; air in the fuel system. In the past 30+ years, I have helped dozens and dozens of folks who were merrily chugging away, then dead in the water, all because of a minute amount of air entered the system.

There are basically two sides of most fuel delivery systems. 1- The suction side; from the fuel tank to the primary lift pump. 2- The pressure side from the primary lift pump through the fuel filter system and onwards through the High Pressure Fuel Distribution pump to the injectors.

Most leaks that will instantly kill a diesel engine are on the suction side. I suggest the following inspections:

1. Follow your fuel line path from the tank to the primary lift pump. This may start with a valve, then hose or metal tubing. Ensure all fittings are tight. This usually means snug, not over tight which can just create more leaks.

2. If hoses are used in the fuel delivery system, inspect them for cracking, rigidity, drips, cuts, etc. Replace if the hose is damaged or dried out and brittle.

3. Ensure there are on the minimal number of connections. Eliminating splices will minimize locations that can develop leaks.

4. If hose clamps are used, ensure they are the right size for the hose, don't try to fit an oversized clamp on a smaller hose. The clamp won't draw up correctly on the hose and will eventually leak.

5. Use quality stainless hose clamps, not cheap. Snug them up with a ratchet / socket rather than a screwdriver.

6. All metal fittings should be clean and dry. Clean, tighten or replace as necessary.

7. Fuel filter assemblies usually have vent screws with rubber o-rings as well as o-rings for the filter and canister if not a screw-on type. Change all these gaskets and o-rings when you first change your filters. - Tighten to specification.

8. If fitted, make sure your primary lift pump works. They often fail from lack of maintenance / age, and then if you do need to prime your system, you've lost the easy option. The alternative, unless there is an in-line electric pump, is to roll the engine over with injector lines loosened, which is hard on the starter, and hard on your battery bank.

9. After changing filters, inspect all the system when running. Let it run at least 10 minutes at a fast idle so you can be sure no errant bubbles are hanging around to bite you. Check all the metal tubing fittings on your injection pump and injectors.

10. If you don't have the engine manual, most are available online. A very valuable resource.

11. Inspect all connections often. When crew is available, try to inspect the engine and fuel system while running under load; that can help prevent any issues if you see something amiss.

Obviously this isn't a complete fault prevention plan, and I hope it didn't make anyone cringe or curse, but if these items are followed, and you perform any recommended operations by the manufacturer, then you should be in good shape.

Have a safe and enjoyable trip!
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Old 06-10-2015, 11:39 AM   #7
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Know exactly how your fuel tanks are plumbed, how to select tanks, are they crosstied, what is path of return fuel, etc.

Know how to change fuel filters, in fact practice that.

Carry a two gal jug of fuel.

Learn how to reprime your engine. In fact, a good idea to run it out of fuel and practice how to get it going again. Practice this dockside!!!

Know your electrical system. What batts do what, how they are connected, how alt charges the batts, etc.

Know what the normal cruising voltage is. Normal is about 13.5-14.2. Just one or two volts lower and charge system is failing. Make sure you have a meter that can tell this difference.

Most cruising trouble is fuel or electrical, and most of these give warning AND can often be remedied without mission failure.

Understand your engine overheat and oil pressure alarm system, and make sure it works.
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Old 06-10-2015, 05:18 PM   #8
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I did part of that route a few years ago (New Johnsonville, TN to Memphis). I would suggest impellers, an abundance of fuel filters, spare fuel line, and new batteries. I second the need to practice changing fuel filters. Make sure that you have a couple of gallons of fuel to prime the filter.

We turned south on the MS at Cairo, IL, so I don't know about facilities to the north, but Green Turtle Bay is a great place to overnight and resupply if needed. Napa delivers there if needed. Don't miss Patti's 1880 Settlement restaurant if you do overnight there...so good. Oh, and make sure you know about wicket dams on the Ohio I had an experienced captain with me on the cruise and he pointed them out, but going downstream, I could see how someone would miss them. The TN river is smooth sailing with lots of marinas with fuel if needed.

Good luck!
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Old 06-16-2015, 10:56 PM   #9
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Halfway

Update : Halfway
It's been a small adventure so far. The boat has performed well.
The Illinois was about 10 feet above normal but not in "flood". Current was about 4 mph and turbulent , commercial traffic heavy, and much debris. It was a rare occasion keep a heading for more than 500 feet without altering to avoid debris. On one overnight stop on the hook, I woke to find a small truck load of debris hung on my anchor rode. The river was narrow which caused delays in overtaking barge traffic. Delays at locks too.
I picked up my son for crew at Grafton Harbor just before entering the Mississippi. The big muddy had crested at St. Louis 3 feet above flood stage on the day before. Current was about 6mph and debris was worse. The river in front of St. Louis was a very confused 3 foot chop, and those carp really do jump lIke that. But it was fast; 210 miles in 2 days. Turbulence made it very difficult for even autosteer to keep up.
The Ohio was tame by comparison. KY Lock was backed up so we went up the Cumberland. Stopped at Green Turtle for fuel and ice and groceries. No time to be a tourist as I have a crew change waiting at Pickwick.
We've been lucky in that nothing serious has broken. We've picked up good quality fuel. Have not argued (therefore not lost) with a towboat. So if you need to make this trip, choose better cruising conditions. But I cannot recommend it for a vacation.
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Old 06-26-2015, 07:36 AM   #10
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Arrived at destification

The Tennessee is a great cruising river. Flood controlled, easy to navigate, lots of interesting side trips and stop overs, beautiful scenery, plenty of places to get help if you need it. I recommend it.
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Old 07-05-2015, 06:55 PM   #11
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Agreed! We did the TN twice last year. It was awesome!
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